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Research investment dwindles in Western countries

Even before the Kyoto agreement, US experts were warning that energy research spending has been falling in a series of Western countries. A blue ribbon panel, which has presented its report on Federal Energy Research and Development for the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century to the President, noted that energy research funding in the US has dropped 80% since the 1970s. The same is true in Europe. When funding dollars are adjusted for inflation, spending has also dropped four-fold in Germany in the past ten years, and six-fold in Britain. Japan is the only industrialised nation that has upped its budget. The experts are calling for a doubling of research spending in the US on energy efficiency and new energy technologies -- including renewables such as wind and biomass, advanced nuclear reactors, and fusion. Specifically, the panel recommends upping the renewables budget (which should not include fusion, fission, fossil fuel or efficiency) from $270 million yearly to $652 million yearly by 2003. "It's pretty ironic now, with all the hand-wringing over climate change, that we have been steadily shrinking our research budget into possible measures to control it," says John Holdren, professor of environmental policy at Harvard University and until recently an energy specialist at the University of California at Berkeley.

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